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PACE approves recommendations to resolve Hungary, Ukraine conflict

The conflict between Hungary and Ukraine over language in education was brought to a head on Oct. 12 when a large majority in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe voted to approve recommendations for the Ukrainian government to resolve the conflict. Among its recommendations was allowing certain schools to conduct full instruction in the native language of an ethnic minority, rather than mixed-language instruction suggested by the Ukrainian government. The resolution condemned Ukraine’s parliament for approving the law on education without consulting ethnic minorities. It also said the law has numerous legal issues, which will be considered by the Venice Commission.


On Oct. 10, the Hungarian foreign minister visited the Ukrainian city of Uzhgorod near the Hungarian border and warned his government will initiate a review of the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement because the new standards in Ukraine’s law on education, signed by the president on Sept. 26, violates its standards. The next day, RFE/RL reported that the EU foreign affairs council would reject such attempts.


Zenon Zawada: Contrary to our initial view that Hungary workedwith the Kremlin in opposing the law, the Hungarian government seems to have more likely manufactured this international scandal on its own in order to mobilize public support ahead of approaching parliamentary elections. Even after the rather favorable resolution by PACE, the Hungarian government continued to try to score points with its electorate, releasing a statement this morning alleging that Ukraine’s law on education “was a knife in the back” of Hungary, the latest in a series of dramatic statements.


For investors, it’s worth considering the Hungarians (and Romanians, to a lesser degree) are playing a risky game in exploiting Ukraine’s attempts at nation-building for their own political gains. Their complaints don’t raise as much concern as the tone in which they’ve been expressed, which has the ability to stir separatist sentiment in Ukraine’s Zakarpattia region bordering Hungary. At the same time, it’s better that Prime Minister Orban took up the issue rather than the Kremlin-aligned nationalists, who have called for reclaiming land in this region. Needless to say, the scandal played into the hands of the Kremlin, whose media have delightfully exploited the conflict to the fullest extent.
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